Scotland never stops surprising us. Staying in the central belt of a small country like Scotland, it’s perfect to go exploring and we intend to visit every corner of this beautiful country. Now that we have our campervan, Dora, our exploring can now include staying in places that we would have otherwise missed out.
This new found explorer freedom brings about its own stresses as we quickly realised that we didn’t have a depth of knowledge regards where to go and park up for the night. We joined several Facebook groups, all full of ideas and first-hand accounts of where to stay and what to see and although this has been useful when we actually try and plan a trip, we end up just driving. The only thing we take into account is the ever-changing Scottish weather.
Our ‘one eye on the weather’ actually created this trip. Fate is a wonderful thing and can result in some amazing and unintended trips.
We were originally going to head to Braemar, a small highland village nestled in the Cairngorms National Park around 58 miles west of Aberdeen, as we had stayed there before and wanted to go back but the weather was not looking too great as snow was forecast in that area.
So, we decided to head south towards the Scottish – English border. An area that would not have been our first choice as we prefer the highlands of Scotland but we decided to go and explore a small area near the town of Moffat. Lying on the River Annan, it was a centre of the wool trade and a spa town.
Coming from Glasgow, we could have driven down the M74 and reached Moffat quickly and easily but this didn’t sound very inspiring. So we followed a different route that would take us through some Lanarkshire villages and onwards to the village of Tweedsmuir, where we then took a left and carried on via a single track road.
Once on this single-track road, we quickly felt at home in our surroundings. This didn’t look like we imagined it to look. We were driving towards a mountainous landscape that appeared impenetrable. How were we going to be able to drive through these mountains? There didn’t seem to be a route through as we drove further along a deep valley.
We had done some limited research before reaching this point and knew that our trip was going to take us past three bodies of water and then onwards to Moffat, so we were confident that we would get there but the way these majestic mountains were bearing down on us, just added to that feeling of wonderment and insignificance that, up until that point, had only been experienced in the highlands of Scotland.
Soon, we reached Talla Reservoir. Opened in 1899, it was an ideal site for the supply of increasing water demands of the expanding city of Edinburgh, 28 miles to the north. Unfortunately, parking was limited and walking around it would have been difficult but our slow drive past enabled us to take in its charm and surroundings.
Next up was Megget Reservoir, an impounding reservoir in the Megget valley in Ettrick Forest, in the Scottish Borders. The 259 hectares reservoir is held back by the largest earth dam in Scotland Wikipedia and with mountains still surrounding us, we hoped to find somewhere to stay for the night. As it turned out, we were spoiled for choice with regular small areas of grass or tarmac just off the road. Some had firepits left behind from previous campers but all had amazing views. It wasn’t long before we found our ideal spot but it was still too early in the day to park up so we headed for the 3rd body of water on this trip, St Mary’s Loch, hoping to find somewhere to walk.
St Mary’s Loch is the largest natural loch in the Scottish Borders, and is situated on the south side of the A708 road between Selkirk and Moffat, about 72 kilometers south of Edinburgh. Wikipedia. Our single-track road came to an end at a junction to the A708 and we turned right onto it. About a mile along this remarkably quiet A road, we parked up across the road from the Glen Café. The café is closed off-season but there are public toilets available. Prominently situated is a monument to James Hogg, commonly referred to as The Ettrick Shepherd. There is signage for various walks, including a 7 mile circular Loch walk, which we decided to do. Unfortunately, we choose the wrong direction to go in. The clockwise route turned out to be a mud bath and eventually forced us onto the road that runs alongside this part of the loch. So, we tried the anti-clockwise route. The was much better, taking us away from the main roads, passed the St Mary’s sailing club and onwards into historic Ettrick Forest with great views and easy terrain. We would definitely recommend this walk. Full of interesting information signage and quirky posts which we were unable to establish their reason for being there. If anyone knows, please let us know in our comments box below.
Then it was back to Dora, off with the muddy boots and time to drive back to Meggett Reservoir. All the time hoping that our overnight spot hadn’t been taken by a fellow camper.
As it turned out we didn’t need to worry as we appeared to have the reservoir to ourselves. We were soon parked up in a great location with stunning views, the kettle was on, we had a glass of wine in our hand and we were chilled out. The outside temperature was also chilled out but our Dora, with its diesel heater quietly kept us nice and cozy.
After a great sleep, we headed for Moffat with a planned stop en route at the Grey Mare’s Tail Waterfall with its 60m plunge into the valley below. We pulled into the carpark, again taken aback by our spectacular surroundings and prepared for what we thought would be a quick walk to the waterfall for some photo opportunities.
Technically, that is possible as there is a short narrow path from the carpark to a viewpoint but we didn’t know about this and for some inexplicable reason we had decided not to research our current stop and had just decided to jump out our campervan and walk towards the falls. At least that’s what we thought we were doing but as we climbed a steep path opposite the waterfall, we then noticed the other shorter path that takes you to the viewing area but by now we were halfway up a steep path which ran parallel to the waterfall. We decided to continue on our current path as this clearly went somewhere and was also being shared by fellow walkers. Maybe at the top, we will get a spectacular view? Maybe it takes us to the source of the waterfall? Where does it take us? Why didn’t we bring any water with us or a snack for that matter? Sam, our dog, just wanted to keep eating rabbit droppings! Why are we acting like amateurs? You’d think we’d never walked before! We know the risks and the importance of preparation. So, we made a decision. Let’s give it 10 more minutes and then we’ll head back down.
10 minutes later, the views continued to be spectacular but we were no closer to working out where we were going to end up so it was time to head back down.
When we finally got back to the carpark, we headed to the shorter path for a photo opportunity of the Grey Mare’s Tail, at the viewpoint. On the way back to Dora we discovered an information board. It turns out that if we had carried on for possibly another 10 to 15 minutes, we would have reached Loch Skeen which feeds the Grey Mare’s Tail Waterfall and is a sight to behold. Sometimes being spontaneous has its drawbacks. This has now become an unfinished walk for us that we will need to return to one day.
We now continued on our journey towards Moffat and eventually decided to book into the Camping and Caravanning Club. We found this site to be very friendly with all the facilities you would expect and is within a short walk to Moffat town centre. The campsite was also nearly full!
Moffat has a good selection of hotels, pubs and cafes, which made us wonder how this small town was able to attract so many visitors. One particular café caught our eye and it was dog-friendly – Jack & Rachel’s Tea Room. Our waitress was very enthusiastic about the selection of cakes and before we knew what had happened, we had ordered two large cakes full of chocolate. They were delicious but left us feeling very guilty (Aileen and I are self-confessed health and fitness types) so with our anxiety levels rising, we decided to go for a nice power walk alongside the local river, dragging Sam, our dog, along. Us full of chocolate cake and Sam full of sheep droppings.
We had had only just arrived but were already starting to see why Moffat is a popular place to visit. From our brief stay we would include a picturesque town centre, local walks with amazing landscape, a good stopover on the way north or south, it’s history and dark sky for stargazing. A quick internet search revealed that Moffat has even more to offer – 10 Things You Probably Never Knew About Moffat
We thoroughly enjoyed our couple of nights away in Dora, our Autosleeper Duetto and would now consider the Scottish Borders as a part of Scotland that we will return to again and again.